The lives of the Carusi, the slave miners of Sicily

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Last Updated on 2021/11/24

Child Slavery at the Floristella Grottacalda mines in Sicily.

The Caruso was a kid aged 8 to 14 years, assigned to carry on shoulder excavated material in bags of 20/30 kg or baskets (stirraturi) of 15/20 kg and working for 8-10 hour shifts.

Early XX Century. Child labour in Sicily was rampant.

The word Carusu in Sicilian means “boy” and is derived from the Latin word carus, “dear“.

During XIX century through the early 1900s the word carusu was used to denote a “mine-boy”, a labourer in a sulfur who worked next to a picuneri or pick-man and carried raw ore from deep in the mine to the surface.

These carusi generally worked in near-slavery, often given up by foundling homes or even by their own families for a succursu di murti (death benefit), which effectively made them the property of either the picuneri or of the owners of the mines. [Wikipedia]

Read CHILD LABOUR AND THE SULPHUR MINES from “The Man Farthest Down: A Record of Observation and Study in Europe”, 1912, written by Washington, Booker T.

Sources: 1 , 2

Floristella mines, 1980 circa
Floristella mine, 1900 circa, lodgings for the miners and furnaces.
Carusi and miners.
In narrow tunnels, the wagons were transported directly from the workers
1950-1960 ca
Average basket weight: 20 to 30 kilos
Solfatara of Grottacalda, 1905, Red Cross servants

Floristella mines, 1905.


The Historical Archive of Banco of Naples

Child Labour And the Sulphur Mines in Sicily

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3 thoughts on “The lives of the Carusi, the slave miners of Sicily”

  1. My Grandfather worked in these same sulfur mines as a child. Christopher Russo
    My son and I were fortunate to be able to visit the mines in 2018. It was very emotional to see these in real life , and the conditions the had to work in.

  2. My father, Vincenzo Annibale, also worked in these mines when he was a child, this would have been around the time of the second world war. I’ve never managed to visit the mines despite having returned to Sicily many times in my life, and now that my Dad has passed away, would not be strong enough to visit.

  3. Hello I am a Carusi my family was from Caramontico Terminal. We are Abruzzo blood line. We live in the United States of America. I found my last name Carusi and read the story about the miens. I like to find out if I had any family that was part of it and how to check into it.


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